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Required CoursesGeneral ElectivesAdvanced Electives

Required Courses

Science I and Science II

These courses are a two-year integrated sequence of biology, chemistry, and physics. We will explore the fundamental concepts of energy, chemical and physical properties of matter, electricity, chemical reactions, biochemistry, cell biology, physiology, evolution, and ecology. Current issues in science will be used to establish a sound foundation in science while highlighting the links between disciplines. In doing so, students will acquire skills in laboratory techniques, critical thinking, the scientific process, and the philosophy and theory of science. Students will learn to write lab reports, translate scientific inquiry into experimental design, and apply mathematical problem-solving to scientific analysis. In the process, students will become informed about current developments in science.

Accelerated Science I and Science II (honors level)
These courses cover all of the topics of Science I and II at an accelerated pace and a greater level of depth. Additional topics may be included. Prerequisite: Consent of the instructor and the department chair.

General Electives (Biology ChemistryPhysicsGeneral Science)

These offerings are open to all juniors and seniors. In certain classes, priority will be given to juniors intending to take an advanced course in that subject area in their senior year.

General Science year-long classes

Astronomy (Offered 2014-15; alternates with Geology)

This year-long course starts with the solar system, and how we know what we know about all the interestingly varied bodies that comprise it. Students will make their own measuring instruments to perform naked-eye astronomy, learning major constellations and how to locate planets along the way. Historical methods of astronomical scientific discovery will be discussed and used, leading to an appreciation of how our knowledge of the solar system has blossomed. The underlying physical principles governing the makeup and operation of the solar system will be investigated in activities, reading and discussion. In the second semester, we will extend our study beyond the solar system and investigate the larger universe beyond our immediate neighborhood, using the recent advances in science and technology that have led to a rapid expansion of our understanding of the operation of the universe. Extensive use is made of audiovisual material in presenting the historical, scientific, and aesthetic aspects of the material covered.

Environmental Science

This course will focus on educating students to become discerning and actively engaged citizens regarding a range of environmental dilemmas. The first semester will concentrate on soil and food production, population dynamics and the challenges presented by an ever-expanding global population and the importance of biodiversity and its conservation. The second semester involves an in depth study of renewable and non-renewable energy sources and the future of energy, followed by the chemistry of air and water pollution. Recommended (but not required) prerequisite: Ecology.

Geology (Offered in 2015-2016; alternates with Astronomy)

This year-long course focuses on physical geology. Students will study the earth and its many landforms, how they have come to be the way they are now, and how geologic processes affect the ways that they continue to change. The theory of plate tectonics provides a useful framework through which to understand many of these processes. An appreciation of the expanse of geologic time is formed as we consider the extensive changes wrought by extremely slow processes. The understanding of the variety of landforms and processes is enhanced and extended through lab activities and extensive use of audiovisual material. The interesting and well-exposed geology of the Northwest provides excellent opportunities for field trips.

Psychology Seminar

In this introductory course, students will research concepts related to brains, behavior, cognition, learning, and memory. Topics will include brain plasticity, psychodynamic theory, evolutionary psychology, and neuropsychology. Students meet regularly to discuss topics and present research. This Pass/Fail course meets once per cycle. It is open to seniors and is worth one-half credit in science. (Note: Students receive science credit, but this course does not count towards a student’s three-year science requirement.)

Science Teaching Assistant (year or semester)

Teaching assistants are vital contributors to our Science I and Science II classes. TA’s attend class each day and work directly with students. TA’s help check daily homework, help students having difficulty with the material, set-up and take down labs, and assist in the lab. As the year progress TA’s may be involved in planning and teaching the class. Prerequisite: Approval of department. (Note: Students receive science credit, but this course does not count towards a student’s three-year science requirement.) 

General Science Semester Electives

Chemistry and Microbiology of Food (Not offered 2014-2015; offered 2015-2016)

This semester-long course examines the biology and chemistry of food. We will look at foods and food systems in scientific terms and investigate how basic scientific principles explain the processing, preparing, and storage of foods for human consumption. Included will be the production of fermented foods, the chemistry of baking reactions and the properties of proteins that are important for food function. The course will also examine food safety and the risks posed by toxins to our food supply. Practical exercises will include bread-making and fermented food production.

Organic Chemistry (Not offered 2014-2015; offered 2015-2016)

This course will delve into the world of carbon-based chemistry. Students will discover the large variety of compounds that can be produced with only a few simple elements. This laboratory-based course will look at many different classes of organic compounds, including alcohols, ketones, and esters. The course will also explore applications of organic chemistry to biology and to industry; students will learn to make aspirin, oil of wintergreen, and nylon! Experimental Chemistry is helpful, but not required, prior to enrollment in this course. Experimental and/or Organic Chemistry are recommended prior to enrollment in Advanced Biology.

Water (Not offered 2014-2015; offered 2015-2016)

Water is essential to life as we know it. Its chemical and physical properties make water a unique necessity in biological systems. However, the era of cheap and plentiful access to water is ending, posing a potentially greater threat to humans than the loss of any other natural resource, including fossil fuels. This class will begin with an overview of why water is a key component in our ecosystem, how humans use water, and the cumulative effects of human activity on Earth’s freshwater supply. We will examine where our Portland water comes from and where it goes, how it provides energy for our daily lives, what our water footprint is, and other local issues. Field trips to water, wastewater, and hydroenergy sites will help us understand the relevance of water in our local community. This course will also explore social, economic, and environmental implications of water management and the key challenges that affect water conservation on a global scale.

Fall Semester 2014


In this course, we will delve more deeply into topics that were introduced in Science I and Science II to learn about the relationship between organisms and the environment in which they live. Why do some plants and animals exist in one place but not another? By the end of the semester, students should understand how individual organisms are specialized to inhabit specific niches in the limited number of places they are found on Earth.

Evolutionary Biology 

This course focuses on the processes of evolution and the patterns generated by these processes. The aim is to develop a scientific way of thinking about biological diversity rather than attempting to memorize the history of living things. How can we account for the extinction of dinosaurs and the existence of mites that crawl around our eyelids? How on earth did some insects come to look so much like sticks? We will seek explanations for such patterns of diversity and for the apparent "good fit" of organisms to their environment. Topics covered include the theory of evolution by natural selection (review of Science II), concepts of fitness and adaptation, genetic base of evolutionary change, modes of speciation, molecular evolution, principles of systematic biology, paleontology and macroevolutionary trends in evolution (plants and animals), extinction and human evolution.


How does a single neuron work? How do collections of neurons cooperate with each other? How does an entire nervous system function to sense and interact within an environment? In this class, we will study the molecular and cellular processes that underlie sensation and perception. Then, by exploring the basic structure and function of nervous systems across a wide range of organisms, we will find patterns in how an organism’s sensory and perception abilities are determined by specific features of its nervous system. Finally, we will examine complex behaviors as emergent properties of these neurobiological systems.

Pathogens and Parasites 

This course applies microbiology, cell biology, and immunology to study the transmission, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. Students will become familiar with the workings of bacterial, fungal, viral, and other parasitic organisms. We will also address how organisms protect against disease, the progression of infection, and the immune system. We will then apply these scientific principles to the historical and social impact of disease epidemiology.

Physics A: Mechanics (Offered Fall 2014; Alternates with Physics B)

This semester-long course will investigate the physics of motion: how and why things move. Kinematics and Newton’s Laws of Motion (Dynamics) will be the main focus. Motion in one dimension will lead to projectiles moving in two dimensions and objects moving in circular motion. Energy transformations and conservation of momentum will also be studied. This study of mechanics will conclude with an investigation of simple machines. This course will include extensive hands-on lab work.

Physics B: Waves, Sound, and Optics (Offered Fall 2015; alternates with Physics A)

After students observe actual waves in water in ripple tanks, the principles of waves will be investigated in sound. Human hearing, interference, the Doppler shift, the science of music, and the speed of sound will be investigated through demonstrations and experimentation. Mirrors and lenses will be introduced through geometric ray optics, and the operation of many optical instruments will be investigated. The wave nature of light will be investigated, with interference being used to measure the wavelength of light.

Structural Design and Engineering 

Why do buildings, sculptures, and objects stand up? What geometries lead to stability? How does material choice inform the structure and design process? How can we connect form with function? What factors do you need to consider in creating an effective and aesthetic design? This project-based course explores the basic principles of designing and building functional and beautiful structures, objects, and mechanisms. Main topics include statics (loads, force, and torque), material science, and the design process. Students will be presented with a series of challenges to design and build. Attention will be paid to structural stability, use of materials, cost-effectiveness, and beauty and elegance of design. The class will involve field trips around Portland and research into current and historical structural design. It will also involve drawing, sculpting, prototyping, calculating, and hands-on building. (This course can be taken for Arts or Science credit.) 

Spring Semester 2015

Anatomy and Physiology 

In this course, students will study form and function across a wide range of plants and animals to understand how organisms maintain homeostasis. The class uses a comparative approach to investigate how organism structure relates to function, including highlights of specialized features in organisms adapted to unique conditions. Laboratory activities will include experimentation, dissection, and microscopy work.

Chemistry of Art 

This interdisciplinary course will introduce and apply chemical principles to understand the properties of common artistic materials. Activities will include both traditional chemistry experiments and art projects. Topics covered include the electronic structure of atoms and molecules and the nature of color, acid/base chemistry, electrochemical cells, and oxidation-reduction chemistry. These will be used to understand the properties of paints, paper, textiles, metals, ceramics, glasses, and glazes. Experiments may include extracting natural dyes, grinding pigments, papermaking, electroplating, and photographic developing and printing. (Open to students who have completed Science I and can be taken for Arts or Science credit.)

Experimental Chemistry 

This semester-long course investigates fundamental chemistry concepts through frequent experimentation. Topics covered include chemical bonding, reaction stoichiometry, solution chemistry and colligative properties, chemical equilibrium, acid-base chemistry, and oxidation and reduction. This course is a prerequisite for Advanced Chemistry. Experimental and/or Organic Chemistry are recommended prior to enrollment in Advanced Biology.


This will be a field-oriented class, requiring several field trips throughout the semester. The final trip to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the month of May will be required for credit. In class, we will study the different families of birds found in Oregon. We will also note which species are found in which biomes and what habitats they prefer. We will study the special adaptations of avian anatomy and physiology that make it possible for birds to function as they do. Much time will be spent learning how to identify, by sight and sound, the different species of birds found in Oregon, thus beginning what we believe will be a lifelong hobby for most class members.

Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism (Offered Spring 2016; alternates with Physics D)

This semester-long course begins with an investigation into electric fields and currents. We will investigate circuit components such as resistors and capacitors and assemble various circuits. We’ll learn about logic circuits and build a simple calculator. The interaction of magnets and charged particles is very important to modern technology, and we will spend quite a bit of time in lecture, demonstration, and lab gaining a firm understanding of this critical concept.

Physics D: Modern Physics (Spring 2015; alternates with Physics C)

This semester-long course investigates developments in physics during the last century. The photoelectric effect, particle-wave duality, the nature of the atom, quantum ideas, nuclear physics, and cosmology will be discussed. Where practical, labs will be done, but modern physics is mostly done on vast, expensive instruments, so audiovisual and Internet resources will also be used.

Physics E – Electrical Engineering 

In this one semester course we will learn about many types of electrical circuit components: capacitors, inductors, diodes, transistors, potentiometers, oscillators, and integrated circuits. We will investigate their use in both analog and digital circuits. We will use our new-found theoretical understanding to design, breadboard and construct actual circuits. Examples might include a crystal radio, burglar alarm, stop watch, and binary calculator. This course is oriented towards the practical application of electronics to electrical devices, and will provide lots of hands-on experience working with electronics components and electric circuits.

Global Online Academy Electives

(Note: Global Online Academy can be used to satisfy up to one elective semester of Catlin Gabel's 3-year science requirement.)

Fall Semester 2014

Global Health 

What makes people sick? What are the best ways to mitigate health disparities? Using an interdisciplinary approach to address these two questions, this course hopes to improve students' health literacy through an examination of the most significant public-health challenges facing today's global population. Topics addressed will be the biology of infectious diseases; the statistics and quantitative measures associated with health issues; the social determinants of health; and the role of organizations (public and private) in shaping the landscape of global health policy. Additionally, students will learn about the biology and epidemiology of certain diseases and use illness as a lens through which to examine critically such social issues as poverty, gender, and race. Potential readings include The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson; Sizwe's Test, by Johnny Steinberg; and the essays of Paul Farmer, Steve Gloyd, and Atul Gawande. Student work will include analytical and creative writing; problem sets; peer review, critique, and discussion; and online presentations. Writing in this course involves students' personal reflections on their understanding of the workings of disease in society, write-ups of epidemiological studies, journal entries, grant proposals, and descriptive narratives of the dynamics of illness. This course may be taken for either science or history credit.

An Introduction to Psychology 

In this course, students will explore how the human mind works and the impact of environment and biology on the development of the psyche. This course seeks to address a number of questions: Why do people act the way they do? How is the human personality constructed? How accurate is memory? How do human beings experience attraction and revulsion? What do our dreams mean? In addition to discussing, studying and researching how psychological processes can affect sensation, motivation, emotion, learning, and memory, students will also review relevant public policy through discussions with experts on criminal psychology and pharmacology, and review best practices regarding psychological ethics in both clinical and laboratory settings. Finally, students will design a comprehensive review of a particular psychological hypothesis and apply it to an experiment of their own design.

Medical Problem-Solving 

In this course, students will collaboratively solve medical mystery cases as experienced by students in medical schools. Students will enhance their critical-thinking skills as they examine data, draw conclusions, diagnose, and treat patients; they will explore anatomy and physiology pertaining to medical scenarios and gain an understanding of the disease process, demographics of disease, and pharmacology. Additional learning experiences will include studying current issues in health and medicine, analyzing personal health and lifestyle, interviewing a patient, and creating a community-service action plan.

Spring Semester 2015

Abnormal Psychology 

This course focuses on psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, character disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and depression. As students examine these and other disorders they will learn about their symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments. Students will also deepen their understanding of the social stigmas associated with mental illnesses. This course can be taken as a continuation of Introduction to Psychology, although it is not required.


Ethics is the study of what one should do as an individual and as a member of society. In this course students will evaluate ethical issues related to medicine and the life sciences. During the semester, students will explore real-life ethical issues, including vaccination policies, organ transplantation, genetic testing, human experimentation, and animal research. Through reading, writing, and discussion, students will be introduced to basic concepts and skills in the field of bioethics, will deepen their understanding of biological concepts, will strengthen their critical-reasoning skills, and will learn to engage in respectful dialogue with people whose views may differ from their own. In addition to journal articles and position papers, students will be required to read Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.


Students will develop a keen ability to analyze global energy issues. A historical and scientific exploration of fossil fuels gives students the foundation to tackle economic and environmental concerns related to traditional and alternative energy. Students do technical analyses of the rates of depletion of the reserves of major oil-producing countries, and investigate the motivations for an oil-producing nation to become member of OPEC. Students will take sides in major energy debates on topics like “fracking” or the international movement of energy supplies. In their final project, students present to their peers on all key aspects of an alternative energy source, including technical and economic viability and environmental sustainability.


This course is an exploration of the neurological basis of behavior. It will cover basic brain anatomy and function as well as cognitive, behavioral, and psychiatric disorders from a neurobiological perspective. Examples of illness to be covered include: schizophrenia, depression, ADHD, Alzheimer's disease, obsessive compulsive disorder, traumatic brain injury, and stroke. Diagnostic and treatment issues, including behavioral and pharmaceutical management, will be addressed. Additional topics include: professional standards and the code of ethics governing all psychologists; psychometrics; and the history of neuropsychology. This course can be taken as a continuation of An Introduction to Psychology, although it is not a prerequisite.

Organic Chemistry in Modern Society 

This course is designed with two goals in mind, one pragmatic and one philosophical. Pragmatically it will provide an absolutely invaluable foundation for further studies in the organic chemistry field, giving students a significant advantage at the beginning of any future course. Philosophically it aims to open an infinite world of discovery of complex molecules, their properties and reactions and applications, that hold the keys to confronting and solving the world¹s most challenging, future scientific problems. The emphasis of the course is on stimulating interest in organic chemistry through an exploration of the molecules relevant to modern life. Students can use this course as a springboard for further learning, as the beginning of a longer journey.

Advanced Electives (All electives below are for one year.)

Open to all students who have completed Science II with permission from the instructor, department chair, and the student’s advisors. All students require approval from their advisors and the department chair before enrollment. Any pre- or co-requisites for admission are listed in the class descriptions below.

Advanced Biology: Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Science (Honors Level)

This course begins with an in-depth study of molecular biology, emphasizing eukaryotic genetics and its manipulation. This leads into an in-depth study of human systems. Students engage in a term-long project in which they shadow a scientist in their field and delve into the topic based on their experience. Laboratory work includes genetic transformation of bacteria through plasmids, size exclusion and hydrophobic interaction chromatography, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, gel electrophoresis, and PCR. The second half of the year involves discussion of clinical cases, a number of animal organ dissections, field trips to the OHSU cadaver lab and/or the primate research center and hands-on experiences
Suggested (but not required) prior coursework: Experimental and/or Organic Chemistry, semester biology electives.

Advanced Chemistry (Honors Level)

This lab-intensive course provides an in-depth look at many chemical concepts introduced in previous courses, as well as explorations of new ideas. Topics will include molecular structures and bonding theories, properties of solutions, kinetics, thermodynamics, organic reactions, nuclear chemistry, and buffers and acid/base equilibria. Prerequisite: Experimental Chemistry.

Advanced Physics (Honors Level)

This course explores further topics in physics using methods of calculus and other specialized and advanced applications of mathematics (which will be presented in class). These topics include kinematics, rotation, equilibrium, gravitation, fluids, Gauss’ Law, electric potential, capacitance, induction, and Maxwell’s Equations. The year will wrap up with a consideration of the theory of special relativity. Corequisite: Enrollment in Calculus. Suggested (but not required) prior coursework: Any of Physics A-D.

Science Research (Honors Level)

The purpose of this class is to give students experience in designing and implementing their own independent research project. Through an extensive search of scientific literature, students develop their own novel research question to investigate over the course of the year. Next, they develop protocols to address the topic of study and collect data and analyze it. Analysis of the collected data may include such tools as graphs and statistical analysis, and then students will write a discussion summarizing the findings. Students will present their work in an oral seminar format at the Junior Academy of Science and in poster format at the Northwest Science Expo for feedback from scientists. (Note: A student may take this course for credit more than once.)